Knowing title tag and meta description best practices is essential knowledge for those wanting to optimize pages to rank better.
Let's get into how to make the most out of these two key on-site SEO elements.
What are Title Tags & Meta Descriptions?
Title tags (also known as page titles or SEO titles) and meta descriptions are two HTML tags that live in a page’s header. They tell search engines what a page is about and are one of the first things crawlers look at on a page.
As a result, title tags and meta descriptions need to clearly explain what a page is about and use the focus keyword that page is targeting, if possible.
Why are Title Tags and Meta Descriptions Useful?
Well-crafted title tags and meta descriptions send signals to search engines that clearly tell them what keywords you want a page to rank for.
Not only that, title tags and meta descriptions are what show up in front of users in search results as search snippets. Great search snippets attract clicks. Clicks that can end up turning searchers into customers or clients.
Title Tag Best Practices
Search engines use the content of title tags as a ranking factor. That means how well, or how poorly, we craft a page’s title tag will impact that page’s ability to rank.
A quality title tag is well-written and engaging. It should always include a page’s focus keyword and compel people to click.
An example of a good title tag for our “fly fishing in Aspen” page might be something like:
Fly Fishing in Aspen - Online Guidebook | Aspen Guide Service
How to Optimize Title Tags
- Draft title tag copy that is unique, descriptive, and compelling.
- Write for humans, not search engines.
- Include the page’s focus keyword at the front of the copy and your brand at the end.
- Keep title tags under 60 characters if possible.
- Use separators like the pipe, hyphen, or colon to separate different elements.
- Place your brand name after the title separator, except for on the homepage, where it typically goes first.
- Capitalize like a blog title.
What to Avoid
- Keyword stuffing
- Not including a focus keyword
- Sloppy formatting
Meta Description Best Practices
Unlike the title tag, a page’s meta description is not a ranking factor. However, we still want to craft it in a way that encourages people to click on that page’s snippet in search results. You can think of a meta description as an abbreviated sales pitch for a page.
A quality meta description for the fly fishing in Aspen page could read:
Dreaming about or planning a trip to go fly fishing in Aspen? If so, you’re in the right place. Click to learn everything you need to know.
How to Optimize Meta Descriptions
- Draft in sentence format so they can be easily read.
- Tell users how a page will help solve their problems or provide a solution they are in search of.
- Write meta descriptions in an active voice.
- Include your focus keyword if possible.
- Have a clear call to action like “learn more" or "buy now".
- Make sure the meta description is less than 160 characters long.
What to Avoid
- Boring meta descriptions.
- Using passive voice.
- Including a phone number instead of a call to action.
Crafting great title tags and meta descriptions is part art and part science. Start with a spreadsheet. List your top 10-20 pages along with the focus keyword for each page. Then, follow the best practices above to write the first draft.
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